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Nostalgia for Activist

Over the past couple of months I have been working for an Organization called Equal Education, more commonly known as the movement of and for learners, parents, teachers and community members working for quality and equality in education, through analysis and activism.

I humbly declare that the activism and community leadership that I’ve seen over the course of my time here has conjured up, inside of me, nostalgia for historical movements that I was not alive to see. I figuratively look back into movements that literally set legal and social precedents of where I am presently allowed to walk, or buy a house, or eat in public restaurant, or use a public restroom. These were movements that declared their humanity and the rights that come with it, regardless of whatever discriminatory factor society would want to pull that day. This summer I am reminded of those elementary days in class when I would learn of those movements and where I would hear the echoes of Martin, Sojourner, Malcolm, Zora, Bayard, Corretta, Langston and many countless others. I have pondered the names that those activists my generation will hear 50 years from now. Possibly, Lwando, Nokubonga, Nthutuzo, Thoko, Cettu, Ngawethu, Afika, and countless others. This summer I have humbly dined with activist and tried to learn everything I could from them, before their names are entered into a history book.

In one of the richest countries in the African continent you will find a sinking cynicism established in the grip inequality. In May 2011, NEIMS (National Education Infrastructure Management System) reported substantially on the atrocious and cruel reality of infrastructure within the South African Education system. The province that experienced the greatest marginalization was the Eastern Cape, though most rural communities in South Africa experience similar realities.

The young activists at Equal Education (EE) have spent countless hours on campaigning for minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure. Through this process EE has identified the dire emergency that exists in education infrastructure in the Eastern Cape; and rural Kwazulu Natal and Limpopo. This is a problem that leaves thousands of rural students in “Mud” schools with no electricity or water, not enough desks or supplies, and crowded classrooms if they have any classrooms at all.

These young people on the frontlines fight for equality with a zeal that is rarely seen. They focus their efforts into four different activities that have been historically successful. These four activities have aided in the process of grassroots organising, bringing issues into public discourse, and building community leaders. Furthermore, these activities have been used as tools to create campaigns that build social, media, and political attention around the dire educational issues that rural communities are struggling against. The four activities are:  marches, protests, community forums, and educational trainings.

These peaceful Marches and Protests are used to dramatize the issue that communities face so that government and other sectors of society cannot ignore them. The community forums and educational trainings are used as mechanisms of building educated, equipped, and informed community leaders.

I have nostalgia for many activists that I never got a chance to meet. But there is always yesterday, right? And tomorrow too. But is today, right now, that worries me the most.